CHATEAUGAY – A public hearing on the proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the Jericho Rise wind farm project drew about 30 people to the Chateaugay Town Hall on Monday – but none of them had anything to say about the agreement.
Instead, all those who spoke during the hearing voiced a similar query: When can the project get underway?
“It is getting late … it should get going,” Jerry O’Connor of Chateaugay told representatives of the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency, which sponsored the hearing. “The quicker you get started, the quicker you will get done. … We have severe winters up here. I am sure they want to get the wind towers done as soon as possible.”
“I know a lot of people who signed an agreement, and as Mr. O’Connor said, ‘It is time to get this going,’” said Burke Town Councilman William Wood, who owns property in Chateaugay, where 29 of the planned 37 wind turbines will be erected. The other eight will be put up in the town of Bellmont.
Mr. Wood said he signed a letter of intent in 2006 to lease his land for the wind farm and a lease agreement in 2008.
The Jericho Rise wind farm project was first proposed roughly 15 years ago but has been dormant since 2009, when then-developer Horizon Wind Energy of Houston put the project on hiatus.
It was revived in late 2014, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced it was one of four renewable energy projects that would share in $206 million made available through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. In the interim, Horizon had been purchased by Energias de Portugal, which is developing the project through its EDP Renewables subsidiary.
Many of those who spoke at the hearing said they were anxious to share in the economic benefits the project would bring, including jobs and lower taxes.
Mr. O’Connor said truck drivers as well as those who will sell materials to build the turbines will benefit from the construction.
Joyce King of Bellmont said she was one of the first to sign with Horizon when the project was originally proposed.
“We went into it with the idea that it will not only help the landowner, it will help the whole community. It is a good clean energy,” Ms. King said. “Get the show on the road.”
“A lot of people will benefit from this,” agreed Gilbert Merrill of Chateaugay. The project has been more than a decade in the making and “it has been dragged out,” he said.
Mr. Merrill, in the only reference to the PILOT agreement made during the public comments, praised the Industrial Development Agency for what he described as a great job with the project.
The IDA last month approved a tentative PILOT agreement under which Jericho Rise would pay roughly $310,000 a year to the county, the towns of Bellmont and Chateaugay and the Chateaugay Central School District in place of the property taxes that could have been levied on the property. Under the agreement, the school district will receive 59 percent of the total payment, the county 13 percent and the towns would share 28 percent.
The towns would also receive an additional $389,000 annually through a Host Community Agreement.
Town officials in both Chateaugay and Bellmont had planned to discuss and possibly approve the agreements following the hearing, but discrepancies in documents provided to them prompted Bellmont officials last week to seek a delay in any action until the issues could be resolved.
C.J. Madonna, the Plattsburgh attorney representing the towns in the PILOT and HCA negotiations, said one of the discrepancies centered on the start date for incremental increases in the PILOT payments Jericho Rise would make. The original PILOT agreement announcement said the increases would start after five years, but other documents indicate they would start after the second year, he said.
Despite the concerns raised by Bellmont officials, the Chateaugay Town Board voted Monday to approve the Host Community Agreement. Councilman William Trombly, who has attended every meeting on the project but refrained from participating because of a potential conflict of interest, abstained from the vote.
Mr. Madonna had recommended that the board act despite Bellmont’s hesitation.
“The agreement to me is in its final form and has been reviewed by me,” he said.
If Bellmont opts not to approve the agreement, or seeks changes in its terms, the 60-page document will have to be brought back to Chateaugay officials for additional action, Mr. Madonna said.
“If you sign it and Bellmont does not sign it, it will come back to you,” he said.